Updated May 22, 2009
Popular Singing Cowboy and actor, Monte Hale, passed away on Sunday, March 29, 2009 after a lengthy illness. He was 89 years old. His career as an entertainer spanned over sixty years in the industry.
Monte was born in Ada, Oklahoma but moved to San Angelo, Texas at an early age. He launched his musical career performing at various clubs around the state, quickly making a name for himself and expanding his performing venues. It was during his performance at a War Bond Rally that Phillip Isley discovered him and soon the handsome, talented young man was headed to Hollywood for a screen test. He hitchhiked all the way, stopping at a gasoline station around the corner from the studio, just long enough to wash his face and comb his hair before making his appearance.
Monte's screen test was so impressive that he was immediately signed to star in "The Big Bonanza" with Richard Arlen. Shortly after he was signed to a seven year contact with Republic where he was groomed up with films starring Wild Bill Elliott, Sunset Carson, and such fare as "Steppin in Society"(1945) with Everett Horton.
Around this time the executives at Republic were looking for someone to test a new color film and they decided to team Monte with Adrian Booth in the Magnicolor "Home On The Range" (1946), thus making Monte Hale Republic's first western star in a color series. His next seven films were made in Trucolor. Monte went on to star in 19 of his own films.
Monte Hale playing guitar next to James Dean and Mercedes McCambridge on the set of "Giant"
Rock Hudson, Monte Hale and James Dean from the film "Giant"
Monte was tall and handsome and possessed an excellent voice. With this in mind, Republic put his voice and his songwriting talents to work in the westerns. Not considered true musical westerns like those of Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, Monte's films were mainly dramas in which he stopped to sing a song now and then. He became one of Republic's most popular and respected singing cowboys.
Fawcett Publications sold over two million copies per month of Monte Hale comic books. Now considered collector's items, the publications were sold in six series and published in twenty-seven different languages.
Monte and Joanne.
After his departure from Republic, Monte went on to do guest starring roles on such TV series as "Gunsmoke," "Honey West," "Tales of Wells Fargo," "Wild Bill Hickock," and "Circus Boy."
He was a member of the panel on "Juke Box Jury" and appeared on the "Western Star Theatre" radio program. In addition he continued his work in films, most notably as Rock Hudson's attorney in "Giant" (1956) and the town drunk in "Chase" (1966) with Marlon Brando.
Monte and his wife Joanne were co-founders of the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum and serve as members of the board of directors and have since the inception of the museum. The museum was later renamed the Autry Museum of Western Heritage and is now part of the Autry National Center as the Museum of the American West.
A permanent exhibit dedicated to Monte Hale's career is located in the Museum of the American West's Spirit of Imagination Gallery.
In 2004 Monte was honored with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Motion Pictures. Read more here.
Monte is survived by his wife, Joanne Hale and two brothers, Bill Hale and Bob Ely. In lieu of flowers the family has requested donations be made to the Autry National Center. For additional information contact Maxine Hansen at (818) 752-7770.
Monte shines with his star.
The following statements were released today:
"My husband was the most wonderful, generous, giving, and loving man I have ever known. He was a gentleman to all. He brought laughter, adventure and joy into my life and into everyone's life that he touched. We were married for 31 years. My family became his. I will love him for the rest of my life." – Joanne Hale
"I've known Monte for almost 30 years. He was Gene's and my best friend. He will leave an empty space and vacuum that can never be filled by anybody. He was in the truest sense a hero." – Mrs. Gene Autry
"Together with his wife Joanne and Gene and Jackie Autry, Monte Hale was an integral part of the creation of the Autry. During the museum's formative years, Monte served on the Autry's board of directors with Joanne as executive director, and he was always present and active in the life of the museum. One of the last of the singing cowboys, Monte was an exceptional actor and steward of the stories of the American West." – John Gray, President and CEO, Autry National Center of the American West
Donations in remembrance of Monte Hale can be made to:
Autry National Center
4700 Western Heritage Way
Los Angeles, CA 90027-1462
Please have acknowledgements sent to:
c/o The Gene Autry Office
4383 Colfax Avenue
Studio City, CA 91604
The Autry Nation Center debuted a special Monte Hale tribute case at the museum on April 11, 2009. View a photo album of the case installation here.